Thursday, 21 April 2011

Art in West Wimbledon

Just a quick blog to showcase some of the Easter term projects at the Art school. What a wonderful group of students we have had. Their vision and skill never cease to amaze me. So many laughs too. Great personalities have made it feel more like a social event than a class at times. This half term's theme was portraiture-a challenge for many who found looking at their own reflections in a mirror week after week a challenge. Strange how we are our own worse critics but with time everyone came to a comfortable agreement with their reflected image and an assortment of results ensued. Take a look.

Pottery project which introduced the medium to most students. Pinch pot jars with lids decorated with slip glaze.

Andy Warhol inspired self portraits

Black graphic self portraits

Gavin and Deborah are an engaged couple and joined the course together

Deborah's self portrait

Tonal values self portraits

Free form black Indian ink with sticks self portraits with brushed in ink work
Clay busts

Childrens class created papier mache Pop Art bowls

 and finally, a party for a group of ladies was held in the studio in which chalk pastel drawings of spring flowers was the theme. Cupcakes to Go supplied us with bespoke, flower themed cakes for the occassion. They were absolutely delicious!

May looks set to be a busy month in the studio with most places on the art courses full and several parties in the diary. Thanks to all my students for another awesome term.

Happy Easter everybody.

Monday, 11 April 2011

When the world says "Give up," hope whispers, "Try it one more time"

I am not entirely sure who said these words however, I am certain they knew their oats. It seems March has been a month of many trials and tribulations for people all over the globe.  It's at times like these that you learn to be thankful for small mercies. In an age of uncertainty where the very foundations of the earth have shook it's been a time of testing and I am so mindful of everyone who has been affected by these events.

At Nicholas & Steele, we have had to adopt the old 'keep calm and carry on' motto as the nation continues to pay off its credit card. In that vain Steve has been busy with a few painting projects.
A 1930's bureau before restoration

and after

A matching chair upholstered by myself

Lovely little French antique-before

and after
Steve then set about decorating this set of drawers which we found on one of our buying trips to Whitstable. He used a lovely 1950's map of Cornwall and a decopage technique.

1930's drawers before...


pin stripe detail

drawers painted inside and hand waxed
A lovely piece to add to our shop stock

As March drew to a close, the weather drew a line under the winter and spring seems to have sprung. The shop is flooded with sunlight and our days seem not only sunnier but happier. It is a wonderful feeling leaving an English winter behind, especially one so long and cold. The sunlight seems to bring out all the pretty colours and the china sings on its shelves begging to be taken out and used in garden parties. With this in mind we have dressed the shop window with a display of samples of our china hire as well as pretty vintage linens.

A pretty Victorian tea set

Vintage embroidered hand towels

A beautiful cot sheet

Cotton tea towels

I finally had time t sew the little curtains for the dressers

100% cotton throws

A collection of silver

1950's  set of children's encyclopaedias (I wonder if children know what an encyclopaedia is?)

Beautiful patchwork cushions made from out of print Cath Kidston cotton duck

Easter chicks

Lovely English daffodils

a selection of vintage napkins
Having quieter days meant I was able to get on with a few more projects the first of which was to make paper heart bunting for sale. Having made some for the Valentines window display, many people came in asking if it was for sale so I spent several afternoons between classes and serving customers cutting endless paper hearts and sewing them together. It has been very popular and makes a great alternative to fabric bunting.

We have had several bookings for children's parties and a very special customer commissioned us to make invitations for a clay cupcake party. I enjoyed this project.

The third project I embarked on were these lengths of floral bunting which I made from vintage and discontinued Cath Kidston print fabrics. They also look lovely displayed on the dressers.

Beautiful Lloyd Loom bedside cabinet

A favourite of mine - Paragon 1950's famous roses tea set
Pink Tuscan Tea set

Another pink Tuscan Tea set

Royal Doulton hand painted full tea set 1930's
Last summer, on a hot day trawling around a fair in Surrey I came across this chappy. He was a little unloved and I simply had to rescue him so he came home with me, much to everyone's amusement. However, a little bath and a new pink ribbon has transformed him and he is now stealing the show in our Easter display.

Easter gifts and cards

The ducklings have sold

Remember Kewpie doll?
My constantly dwindling stash of mini eggs (thanks to my chocaholic other half)

Various glass storage jars

I love these fake eggs, they surprise everyone

A Victorian Sowersby milk glass basket

German pin cushion dolls also great for a cake topper.
I love these hand embroidered 1950's tea towels
New stock of ribbons

A beautiful Susie Cooper part dinner service

Nursary kitch pair of deer wall decorations.

More patchwork cushions

One of our best sellers are these gorgeous Maileg toys, made in Denmark. As this year is the year of the rabbit they are proving  popular as gifts for newborns and we have been doing a brisk trade. With Easter just a few weeks away we popped off to our suppliers for a new supply. They are kept in a huge ancient barn on a lovely farm.

  I am not making this up. It is impossible  to leave without a huge smile on your face. My favourite bit is unpacking them all once we are back in the shop. (I often catch myself talking to these toys, a worrying habit.)

I love the mice in the matchboxes. They have little pillows, a mattress and a crochet blanket.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.....
 a rare sunny March Day saw us shutting up shop for an hour or two to photograph an impromptu Royal Wedding photo shoot for the April edition of Darling Magazine. This was right up my alley and we had fun transforming our garden into a fun street party Style garden party. I wrote an article too, to accompany the photos on the history of street parties. Check it out on

In the shop our royal memorabilia shelf is full of a variety of exciting finds including this Corgi coach and original union Jack flag from the 1952 coronation of the Queen.

Union Jack Cocktail flags

The most exciting news is the nearly completed Nicholas & Steele website  We hope it will be a great way for our customers to keep abreast of what we are up to and  we will be opening our online sales soon. In the meantime, all objects listed on these blogs are for sale and can be posted or shipped in the UK and internationally. We are aware that many of you from all over enquire about how to get your hands on some of our wares. Please feel free to email us at to reserve and purchase items for sale.

For those of you interested in the Art school or currently attending our courses, I will shortly be posting a blog on the latest projects coming out of the studio so watch this space.

I would like to thank all of our followers for encouraging  and supporting us during these quieter months. It is an ongoing struggle for  small businesses to navigate the mirky waters of this current financial dispensation. Please continue to use your local independent shops in your neighbourhoods as much as possible. Not only will you have a hand at keeping your neighbourhood real, but you will also enjoy the benefits of unique products and friendly services.

It would seem that in an age where 250 000 people can march into London in protest to what the government is doing and have a blind eye turned to it while at the same time that same government is waging a war against a dictator in Libya for doing the same thing! Hmmmm???? (off the soap box Holly!)

Enough with the blankets, cuts and the cold! Roll on summer and happier times, that's what I say.